Seaside Garden Design Ideas

A seaside garden benefits from specific assets, but also from constraints with which you will have to compose. This is particularly on the Atlantic littoral. In this type of garden you need certain conditions for success. These conditions include good knowledge of the environment, a rational choice of plants and adapted gardening methods.

This practical sheet gives you the keys to create a garden by the sea.

Zoom on the specificities of a garden by the sea

The advantages of the seaside: mild climate, sun, light

The shore has several advantages that you can take advantage of:

  • The less severe winters, allowing planting hardy little plants, Sub-Mediterranean plants, even exotic.
  • On the west coast, summers are warmer and wetter than inland.
  • An early spring, with magnificent blooms.
  • A high brightness, beneficial to plants.

The constraints of the seaside: wind, spray, sand

The shore has its share of disadvantages, with which you will have to compose:

  • The wind, which dries up the soil, deforms and breaks the plants.
  • The salt spray, which reaches up to 2 km inland and can burn the foliage.
  • The projections of sand that can hurt the plants planted near the coast.
  • A poor soil, often sandy or stony.

Two types of seaside gardens

There are two types of seaside gardens:

  • The garden at the edge of the ocean or the Channel: it is the typical seaside garden. The climate is temperate in the winter and also relatively cold and rainy in the summer. It however has a noticeable difference between the north and the south. Wind, spray, and sand are very present, imposing rigorous protection. It is essential to distinguish:
    • Situations of 1 st line: directly exposed to conditions spray, wind and sand projections.
    • Situations 2 e line: more remote situations shore or protected by plant 1 st line.
    • And, situations of 3 E line, which allow a greater choice of plants.
  • The Mediterranean garden: the summers are dry and hot, the winters are mild, with rare frosts. The soil is generally poor, dry, stony.

1. Compose your protection against wind and spray

Protecting the garden from the wind: a priority

  • Protecting a seaside garden from wind and salt spray, especially on the west coast, is the top priority. In the long run, nothing better filters the wind than a well-composed hedge.
  • It is only after planting this hedge and giving it time to grow for three years that you can cultivate. This cultivation is always behind its protection of perennials and annuals less wind resistant.
  • If you do not have a hedge, you can install windbreaks such as canisses, ganivelles, briars, or windbreak nets.

Special case: garden directly facing the sea

If your garden is directly facing the sea (like so exposed to the wind and spray), a simple hedge is not enough. Plant a succession of 2 or 3 screens depending on the vigor of the wind. These screens are mainly plants particularly resistant to wind and with spray. They are therefore first-line plants:

  • a first screen comprising small plants;
  • February 1 e screen compound shrubs;
  • March 1 e screen composed of trees;
  • All are forming a protective screen about 6 m wide, behind which you can arrange your garden.

2. Choose plants suitable for a seaside garden

Plants adapted to a seaside garden are those that resist wind, spray, and drought, and more specifically:

  • The plants with leathery or glossy foliage that salt will not hurt.
  • The plants with silver foliage, foliage that reflects light and often has a protective blanket.
  • Plants compact, stocky, resistant to the wind.

Front line trees facing the sea

  • In general: strawberry tree, oak, cypress, pine, (c Monterey Lambert c..) (P maritime, p Landes, p Monterey…) Tamarisk …
  • More particularly for the Mediterranean coast: cork oak, Provence cypress, plane tree mulberry, robusta washingtonia palm, umbrella pine …

Shrubs on the first line facing the sea

  • As a general rule: atriplex halimus or purslane, eleagnus, escallonia, Japanese charcoal, Spanish broom, griselinia littoralis, holly (especially ilex x altaclerensis very resistant to spray), myoporum laetum, olearia (o. virgata, very resistant to spray), pittosporum tobira …
  • More particularly for the Mediterranean coast: calocephalus brownii, cistus, cordylinea australis, oleander …

Bamboo and grasses

  • Bamboos: they offer excellent protection against the wind. Favor the fargesia bamboos, non-tracing.
  • Grasses. With their beautiful and also light foliage, they are suitable for the windiest terrain. In particular, oyats (perfect on the first line in very sandy and windy terrain). Also included is Provence cane(Arundo donax), Miscanthus (M. sinensis, m. floridulus, M. sacchariflorus), sedges (i.e. Bronze comas, C. grayi, C. testacea), fescues , penisetums, briza media, deschampsia cespitosa, stipa tenuifolia …

Perennials particularly adapted to the seaside

  • Front-facing  perennials facing the sea. acaena microphylla, anthemis nobilis (Roman chamomile), maritima armeria, astericus maritimus, ballota pseudodictamnus, maritime cineraria, crambe maritima, echium candicans, erigeron glaucus, erigeron leiomerus, felicia amelloides (Cape daisy) , frankenia laevis, Spanish turf or carnation, geranium sanguineum, phormium, maritime silene …
  • Perennials of the second line facing the sea. agapanthus, anthemis, sagebrush, bellflower, convolvulus mauritanicus, crambe cordifolia, euphorbia, hebe, Corsican hellebore, sunflower, nepeta, leucanthemum, phlomis, sage, valerian, verbena of Buenos Aires …
  • Perennials especially adapted to the Mediterranean coast. agaves, aloe, delosperma (D. cooperi), witch claw (carpobrotus), helichrysum italicum, lavender, lantana, perovskia, rosemary, santoline, thyme …

Cultivable roses by the sea

As a general rule, roses are difficult to grow in seaside gardens. However, some particularly tough rugose hybrid roses can adapt to these particular conditions:

  • Max Graf, ground cover with pink roses.
  • White Coubert Double, bush with beautiful double roses pure white.
  • Beautiful Poitevin, bush with large fragrant flowers, magenta pink.
  • Hansa, vigorous bush with large purple-red flowers, very fragrant.
  • Perfume of the Haÿ, shrub with double flowers of a crimson red with lilac reflections, with powerful fragrances.
  • Pink GrootendorstWhite Grootendorst and FJ Grootendorst (raspberry red), shrubs with original frilled carnation roses.
  • fimbriata, shrub with small pale pink flowers, also fimbriated like carnation flowers.

At planting, if the soil is sandy, poor or dry, ensure to put a mixture of compost and peat. You should put this at the bottom of the hole. Subsequently, make regular inputs of fertilizer.

3. Plant by the sea: specific gestures

  • Prepare the soil. It is in most cases, especially in sandy soil, too light or too poor. It is also either a compost or decomposed manure intake will better retain water and minerals.
  • Plant preferably in spring, after the winter storms.
  • Plant tight so that the plants protect each other against the wind and spray.
  • Grow young trees and shrubs, which will adapt more easily.
  • Stake the trees, or guy the tallest ones.
  • If you are planting a screen in multiple lines, start by planting the first line; then the second when the first will already form effective protection; and finally the third line if any.
  • Also, Maintain watering bowls around newly planted plants.
  • MIn filtering soil, thoroughly water the first two summers.
  • Straw the soil to keep it fresh. Use an organic mulch (BRF, mulch …) that will decompose improving the quality of the earth.

4. Service a garden by the sea

  • Water copiously before an announced gale.
  • Water copiously after the gale or storm.
  • After the storm, rinse the plants that received the salt spray with a jet of water.
  • Repeat the mulches regularly.
  • Check stakes regularly

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